Sami Shamans and the Noaidi Tradition

Since ancient times Finland is inhabited by two indigenous groups the Finns and the Sami . Both groups established a rich and colorful shamanic culture . Unfortunately the Finns and its heritage are long lost . The situation with the Sami culture is rather different however . The practice of the Sami shamans is still preserved thanks to the devotion of people and their will to protect the sacred heritage of their kin .


sami shamans and people


The Proto-Sami originates from the Franco-Cantabrian region


Around 10 000 -13 000 B.C. they migrated North in pursuit of dears . They crossed the North Sea which was dry at the time and reached the territories of nowadays Finland .


Like in the most of the sub-arctic  cultures , the Sami shamanism and its  practices are closely related to the nature and her powers . It is believed that all the nature’s forces are a representations of the spirits . These spirits control most of the key aspects of Sami’s life and their surrounding environment . According to Sami beliefs the animals , the plants and even the inanimate objects has souls . The rituals and the sacrifices of the Sami shamans are mostly performed on special places in the nature .


The tradition of the Sami shamans is transmitted by Joik , a sort of chant that contain the ancient shamanic wisdom


The drum is an important part of the Sami shamanic tradition . The Sami people believe that the drum is a tool for connection and communication between our world and the realm of the spirits . Although every house has its own drum there are only few able to take advantage of its full potential and powers . These people are called Noaidi or the Semi shamans .

 a drum of the sami shamans


The Noaidi use their drums for achieving a state of trance . While in that altered state of consciousness the shaman is capable of entering deeply to the spirit realm . In that realm he cooperate with his helping animal spirits for achieving the goals he is after . The Sami shamans also use their special drums in order to foretell the weather conditions and to warn the community for eventual dramatic climate changes . These skills of the Noaidi are extremely important for the survival of the tribe .


The Sami shamans were feared and respected in Medieval times not only by their communities


The word about their unique skills has been widely spread on the old continent . There are documented evidences that the Russian Tzar – Ivan The Terrible , has visited the Sami people to seek the wisdom of the Noaidi . In Germany , England and Russia believed that the Noaidi are masters of the winds . They believed that with the power of the will а Sami shamans are able to trigger storms and blizzards . 


The become a Sami shaman , was not an easy task however


The young Noaidi , is a subject of numerous tests and trails , which must prove his inner strength and special abilities . These trails were rather harsh . In order to prove his qualities the shaman is expected to endure to extreme cold or pain . He might be left outside with almost no clothes , or requested to hold in his hand red-hot piece of metal . The lack of sings of burn or frostbites is a definitive evidence that the tested subject has explicit qualities .  A prove that the person is patronized by the spirits .


sami shamans and people


Another important skill of the Sami shamans is their ability to find lost objects and people . Cooperating with the spirits , they are able to assist in cases when someone is buried by an avalanche , or lost in the cold blizzard . In order to achieve that the shaman is working with his aides spirits .


The most important quality of the Sami shamans is their ability to heal


With the aid of the spirit helpers and the natural herbs and powers , he had to take care about both the physical and the mental state of the community members . Another healing tool that the Sami shamans use is the so-called “Kamlania” . Kamlania is a series of rhythmic , magical words and phrases accompanied by the sound of the shaman’s drum . 


For the Sami shamans the death is not the end


If the Noaidi is evil  , after his death he would most likely turn to an evil entity similar to a vampire called Ravka . There is a story from 1931 about the death of such an evil shaman named Riz . The other members of the village didn’t wanted to bury him as they knew that he will turn to Ravka and would terrorize the community . They have asked another shaman to take care of the funeral . The story tells that two weeks after the funeral the young 24 years old Noaidi that took care of the funeral has turned gray for just one night .


It is believed that the good Semi shaman also do not die


When a Noaidi reaches the end of his earthly path , he would go on some special place in the tundra and will turn to stone . Even in that state the shaman retains his abilities . For that reason the Sami people pay respect not only to the high spirits , but also to sacred stones, believed to be deceased shamans .


The Christianity had referred to the Sami people as backward and to their shamanic practice as a devil’s practice


In 17th century a law is forged . A law that suppressed the Sami people and their tradition . Churches are built to convert the “infidels” . If someone was denying to accept the Christian God as his savior , or has secretly practiced the ancient shamanic tradition, he have been prosecuted and burned at the stake . The sacred places of the Sami people were also destroyed . Their sacred drums seized , as symbols of the devil .


sami shamans and people


Today there are few remaining Noaidi practitioners , but the belief in their special powers is still strong . They are a symbol of hope for the Sami people . They are their heritage for the generations to come . 

Related Literature

The Sami Peoples of the North: A Social and Cultural History

by Neil Kent


The Sámi People: Traditions in Transitions

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With the Lapps in the High Mountains: A Woman among the Sami

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Far Northern Connections: Researching Your Sami (and Other) Ancestors in Northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia

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The Norse Shaman: Ancient Spiritual Practices of the Northern Tradition

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Wightridden: Paths of Northern-Tradition Shamanism


Nine Worlds of Seid-Magic: Ecstasy and Neo-Shamanism in North European Paganism

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